It’s not news that the last two years have been…different. Stronger adjectives probably come to mind. Around this same time in 2020, most practices were still in the process of re-opening with all the new challenges that doing so presented. New safety protocols. Staff and patient attrition. An urgent need for revenue and collections. Changes in the way patients entered and exited the practice. Many more could be listed.
As you’ve had a chance to look in the rearview mirror and reflect on what happened in 2020-21 and what you learned, what has stood out? For many dental practice owners and teams, the first thing that may have come to mind was “good riddance!” But for some, surprisingly, the last two years were some of their best for performance and profitability. How is that possible? It turns out they did some things (and are still doing them) that made two very difficult years some of their most successful ones ever. The good news? Everything they did is something you can replicate in your practice. Here are three that had the most impact on their success:
They Focused on Patient Growth
What was the first thing you thought when you read “patient growth”? Probably adding new patients, right? Most practices make adding new patients a priority, and understandably so. New patients are an important contributor to the growth of any dental practice. But are they the best source of that growth? You might be surprised. In 2021, top-performing practices increased patient growth by 18%, which represented a 4% increase over 2020. In contrast, the lowest-performing practices were down almost 12% from 2020, which represents a 30% gap between the top 10% and bottom 10%. What’s going on here?
Two words: Patient Retention. The difference between the top ten and bottom ten in 2021 was how well these practices retained their existing patients. To repeat, new patients are important. But more importantly, successful practices focused on their existing patients in 2021. They made sure each one had scheduled appointments, that they were current on hygiene care, that they were being effectively presented with needed treatment (which was then scheduled and completed,) and that family members were also receiving care.
Here’s the formula we recommend when calculating Patient Growth %:
New patients + Reactivated patients – Patient attrition = Patient Growth %
For example, if you added 50 new patients, lost 40, and retained 10, you’ll have positive patient growth. You can see the levers here and make decisions about which ones deserve your attention. Perhaps you would try to increase that new patient number to 60 or reduce that lost patient number to 30. Maybe your focus is on reactivating more patients. Regardless of what you decide here, it’s important to know what your current Patient Growth % is and then develop and implement a plan to improve your %. This is how these practices saw growth in 2021, and it’s how they (and you) will grow in 2022.
They Held an Effective Morning Huddle – Every Morning
Morning huddles are something everyone knows about, right? The idea certainly isn’t a new one. Meeting as a team for a few minutes each day to coordinate schedules and patient visits is standard practice for many dental practices. Are these successful practices doing something different in their huddle than what you are doing? Here are three things that are included in their morning huddle that could impact your huddle as well.
- They use data to determine what they discuss. This is different than just reviewing numbers. For these practices, holding a data-driven huddle means they are using their KPIs to understand what happened the day before, what is happening today, and what is scheduled to happen tomorrow and as needed, adapting to improve performance.
- They involve every team member in the huddle. Instead of an office manager or doctor running the huddle, these practices ask team members to come prepared to contribute, which leads to a sense of ownership and accountability.
- They celebrate success and set goals to improve. This is a big one! Successful practices thrive because they have a positive culture of growth and validation for team members. This culture is built on celebrating success and holding each other accountable, which builds trust and confidence. Here’s how one of these practices, Greenville Family Dentistry in Greenville, Illinois, is making the most of their morning huddle.
“We try to make every huddle a celebration, even if we might have missed some of our goals from the day before,” office manager Whitney Thornton shared. “Highlighting even small wins does so much to unify and energize our team. We use Dental Intelligence’s Morning Huddle, which allows everyone to see the same information at the same time. No more running reports or trying to find out what’s happening in our practice. Now we know what’s happening. Instead of searching through our files for patients to fill holes in the hygiene schedule, we can find that information in seconds. It just feels like we can operate so much quicker and more efficiently, and I can’t say enough about our huddle and what it’s done for us.”
They Focused on Hygiene Re-Appointment %
What is Hygiene Re-Appointment %? It’s the percentage of hygiene visits that, on the same day as their hygiene visit, have scheduled a subsequent hygiene appointment before leaving the dental office. In 2021, the most successful practices scheduled over 90% of patients for their next hygiene appointment before those patients left the practice. In contrast, those practices at the low end scheduled 56%, or just over half of their hygiene patients for their next appointment. This is obviously a significant gap and should motivate every practice to determine what their current Hygiene Re-Appointment % is and if attention is needed here.
Unless you’ve already been focusing on this, your current re-appointment % might be discouraging. We advise against despairing too much, and instead, encourage you to view this as a huge growth opportunity. Improving your Hygiene Re-Appointment % is a relatively easy process. Mostly this is about forming new habits around a consistent and practice-wide process that everyone follows. Simply put, make scheduling patients for their next appointment before leaving your practice a Standard Operating Procedure. Doing so will have a significant impact on your schedule and on the health of your patients.
To review—Here are three effective ways that thriving practices are growing, even in a challenging economic environment:
- They are focused on increasing patient growth.
- They hold an effective morning huddle each day.
- They are focused on increasing hygiene re-appointment percentage.
Even though 2022 is almost half over, there are still plenty of opportunities for motivated practices to implement these and other best practices going forward. If growth is a priority for your practice, consider how these suggestions could be used and develop a plan of action. It’s not too late to start.
Want to learn more about how to create a growing, data-driven dental practice? Dental Intelligence would love to help! To get started, visit us today and request your free practice analysis, courtesy of Open Dental. We’re here to help you grow like never before!
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